If you hang out here often, you know how much I love guided reading. If you are on my email list, you have read about my guided reading journey. I jumped in during my first year of teaching and often felt like I was drowning. I wasn’t really sure what to think of the whole guided reading thing–the process, the importance, the routine, the expectations, etc. As time has gone on, I have come to realize that there are 4 reoccurring misconceptions I had or hear about over and over when it comes to guided reading. There are guided reading misconceptions that we need to squish.
Guided reading is powerful enough to stand alone.
Many times we get so caught up in guided reading, that we forget that it is simply ONE PART of the whole balanced literacy approach to teaching reading. If all we are doing is providing coaching during guided reading time, but not modeling how to think like a reader during interactive read aloud or how reading should sound during shared reading, we are doing a disservice to our students. We need ALL of the elements to work together.
Guided reading happens with only leveled groups.
When I first started guided reading, it was actually my first year of teaching. I had an amazing balanced literacy mentor who came into my classroom 2-3 times a week and modeled things for me. (Best thing that ever happened to me!) When I was brave enough to get groups going by myself, I created my groups based on their reading level. This wasn’t a bad thing, but I had missed a valuable part of guided reading groups–they are “DYNAMIC, FLEXIBLE, and CHANGABLE on a regular basis”(Fountas and Pinnell, 1996). This means that kids move in and out of groups and that they aren’t always based on reading levels, but rather reading abilities.
Let me explain a bit more. For example, you may have 6 students in a group. 4 of them may be level B and 2 of them may be level A. You may have put this group together because all of them need help with a specific reading strategy or decoding strategy. Maybe you noticed that the level B readers are able to read on that level not because they can decode, but because they always catch on to the repetition of the text. You may have placed these students together in a group so that you can work on cross-checking with meaning and the first letter. It maybe work out that the kids in one group are always on the same reading level and that is great! Don’t be afraid to mix them around as you work on a specific reading strategy or decoding strategy that they all need, though!
Guided reading is round-robin reading.
When I was in first grade, this was the case! We sat at a rectangle table and all took turns reading. I spent so much time focusing on figuring out what pages or lines of text I would read that I wasn’t paying attention to the story. Plus, there was always this one kid who read so fluently and I loved listening to him read. I would get caught up in that instead of focusing on reading.
In guided reading, all students read at the same time. You may be thinking this is crazy, but trust me, it can be done! Who ever I am taking a running record on on that day or who ever is my focus student of the day, starts reading first, and then after 1-2 lines of text (depending on the text length), the others start reading in a whisper voice. I let them use a whisper phone and pass it around taking turns reading into it. (I only ever had one!) This lets every kid read the whole text AND it lets me listen to a child read the whole text, too.
In guided reading, only reading accuracy matters.
So often I would find myself getting caught up in their accuracy. A child would knock the book out of the park with a 99% accuracy, but then it would come time to assess their comprehension and the sweet child could not tell me one thing that happened in the book. The point of reading is to comprehend, right? When a child cannot comprehend a text, you cannot simply move them up to the next reading level and trust that one day it will just click. Often times I would keep the child on the current reading level or even bump them down a level, where story lines were much simpler, and spend time there focusing on retelling, story elements, holding the story in their head, and other comprehension skills. Accuracy and comprehension matters.
What are your misconceptions? What are your guided reading questions? I am happy to sift through them with you because the truth is, I probably have had the same misconception or question before!!